Bremerton goes its own way in Olympia

BREMERTON — In one way, cities like Bremerton (and the five other Kitsap County cities) are no different than the citizens — in order to persuade the Washington State Legislature to see their point of view, they must lobby the legislators.

With funding and protection of new sources of financial resources at stake, Bremerton is getting ready to do battle in the state Legislature in Olympia.

Of the main issues that Bremerton will be focusing on in the state capital, all three involve either the protection or restoration of funding sources:

1. Cities want the state to distribute a portion of liquor taxes. This is not because cities want to get into the vice business.

“When a liquor store opens somewhere, the cities have to provide money for police and resources to manage a presence like that,” Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent said.

2. A portion of the marijuana tax, for similar reasons. The lucrative medical and private marijuana sales taxes are simply too good to leave on the table.

3. Asking the state to maintain the Public Works Trust Fund. This fund permits cities to take out a loan to finance public-works projects in that jurisdiction. These loans are available for just 1 percent — an unbeatable source of financing for critically needed projects like road maintainance, sewers and so forth. To date, no city that was granted a loan has ever defaulted on it.

But the state, desperate for money in its own right, decided several years ago to divert money from the Public Works Trust Fund to help them cover the budget gaps in the state’s general fund.

Peter King, executive director of the Association of Washington Cities — which advocates for all 281 cities in the state of Washington — told the Bremerton City Council at a work study/briefing Dec. 23 that a total of $1.2 billion has been diverted since 2009 — funds that would otherwise have been allocated to local public works/infrastructure projects.

In approaching this critical legislative session for the first time in three years, the City of Bremerton retained its own lobbyist to represent the city’s voice in Olympia. Bryan McConaghy now owns his own political consulting firm, but he once served on former U.S. Representative Norm Dicks’ staff, so he is familiar with the Bremerton halls of power.

The Bremerton City Council and the mayor will host a legislative retreat on Feb. 12, most likely in the City Council chambers. All members of the public are invited, but there is no open speaking session.

Mark Briant is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. He can be reached at mbriant@soundpublishing.com.

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